Artists work to build an audience, then withdraw to places where they can simply be human. Backstage, greenrooms are the hideaways that bear their wildest celebrations, embrace their failures and hide their flaws. The rooms shift in character through a range of human interactions, from the pulse of connection with artists and friends, to an interview, to the sanctuary of quiet moments before going onstage.
Maybe performers still think about that one evening when everything that went wrong came together perfectly with everything that went right, and they came back to the greenroom sweating, glowing, shouting, drinking, hugging—touching the walls and writing their dreams on the ceiling. Greenrooms see so many things, and then they are left alone: someone’s empty living room, a strange hotel suite in the back of a building, cleaned after every guest but acquiring a buildup of indelible marks from each.
Town Hall, a multidisciplinary venue housed in a former church, hosts an unbelievable variety of musicians, speakers, authors and politicians. Its greenrooms have accommodated Polish pop stars, Mongolian fusion musicians, Barack Obama, Margaret Atwood, The Magnetic Fields and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, to name a few. One greenroom holds what the staff lovingly calls the “Nora Ephron Memorial Couch”; when the late writer spoke at Town Hall in 2007, she was so vocal about its ugliness that the staff mentioned it to her sister Delia, when she came to speak some years later, who found it hilarious.
Neumos has long been a launching place and stomping ground for young Seattle musicians. A well-worn stairway goes from the stage and load-in doors to the greenroom hallway. “Viking Tom” is usually at the top; Tom is the gracious gatekeeper between the artists’ space, the stage and the outside world, and has been for years. Neumos still prides itself on the same artist hospitality that once inspired an owner, having lost his keys, to get a boost over a wall to a walk-in fridge to get more whiskey for the band.
The Crocodile (a.k.a. the Croc) has been remodeled since its days as a landmark of the Seattle grunge era, but the bared ceilings of the greenrooms show an extensive lineage of local and touring musicians who have come through since the venue reopened in 2009. Just a few steps from stage left, these petite, warmly lit cubbyholes inherit so much audience roar that the backstage experience feels viscerally connected to being onstage.
Nectar Lounge, Seattle’s largest indoor/outdoor venue, draws an eager crowd on sticky summer nights. Nectar’s greenroom used to be a portable—essentially a windowless shed. Now it’s a one-room add-on that feels much like a clubhouse, with exactly the type of decor you’d expect to find in one. Even the couches (which, like many greenroom couches, will sink nearly to the floor when sat upon), are covered in names and notes.